And here's what prompted this blog post: the very nice IT guy wrote back and said, "I think your focus on the student is correct although I've had at least a few faculty approach me with an interest in making their lessons more interactive."
ALARM BELLS RING: Interactive... do we all agree on what that word means? Clearly not.
To me, interactive means human beings interacting with each other. Inter-action. You do something, I do something that is somehow connected to your action: we are inter-acting. It is something that humans do together, and it requires humans to do that. Or, okay, cats. My cats are definitely interactive; they interact with me, they interact with each other (not nicely, alas).
But I do not believe that computers can interact with humans. We can use computers for all kinds of purposes, and one purpose of a computer can be to facilitate interactions with other human beings . . . like right now: I write something in a blog, and if you are prompted to comment here, and I comment back, glory hallelujah: we will have interacted, even if we have never met face to face.
But I am not prepared to use the term "interaction" for a computer's action in response to something that I have done. There is NO ONE THERE to interact with. If you say a computer is interactive because it makes a happy bleep when I answer a quiz question correctly would be like saying that Rice Krispies cereal is interactive because it goes "snap, crackle, pop" when I pour milk on it. Or like saying that the door to my house is interactive because it opens when I turn the key. And so on, ad infinitum ... and ad absurdum.
So, yes, it is essential that learning be interactive: we need human feedback of all kinds to keep our learning process moving forward. Making my online classes highly interactive is a primary goal for me. Just today, I wrote up notes on an important new strategy I am trying to improve the student-to-student interactions in my classes: New "Comment Training" Strategy.
But that does not mean I need an elearning vendor to sell me some product to create so-called "interactive" quizzes, etc. (scare quotes intended). Instead, I am interested in products that facilitate person-to-person communication online. Right now, for my classes that means mostly blogs and Twitter, along with that vintage standby: email. (I far prefer blogs and Twitter.)
So, what say ye, people? Has the word interactive become so empty of meaning that online quizzes now qualify as an "interactive" component of a class? Was the word "dynamic" not good enough? If so, heaven help us. It means I will have to find a new word to use for what I consider real interaction, if that word has indeed been kidnapped and emptied of meaning by the elearning vendors.